Did you know stress and addiction relapse are linked? Stress is a good response in small doses. It is a natural part of your everyday functioning and can help motivate you to conquer new situations, rise to action, and make smart decisions. Unfortunately, in the case of addiction, high stress can make matters worse. Addiction is a complex and powerful disease. Far too often, the road to recovery is portrayed with too much simplicity. If you think of addiction as black and white, you may be adding to the natural stress of the journey. Like anything of value, healing is something that takes hard work to achieve. It is also important to remember that relapse is simply a bump on the road, not a permanent detour.
Here we will discuss what a relapse is, why stress and relapse are connected, and what you can do to manage stress. Do you or a loved one need immediate help managing stress and relapse? We can help you find the best treatment for your addiction, regardless of what it may be. Contact us today at 385-327-7418.
The Reality of Relapse
First, let’s dive into what exactly a relapse is. A relapse occurs when you return to using a substance you intended to quit. This decision could be as simple as deciding to order a beer at your favorite restaurant or experiencing an extended illegal drug binge. Relapses can happen at any point on your journey to recovery and often bring about a variety of difficult emotions.
Relapses can happen often. Some individuals that battle with substance abuse relapse multiple times throughout their journey. This type of “slip up” can leave you confused or feeling things like shame or guilt. For many individuals battling addiction, relapse may even be something they attempt to hide from family members or friends. This may leave the individual ready to give up on the recovery process completely. This is the last thing you want to do. Anyone that suffers a relapse should seek to re-enter treatment as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, relapses are a standard part of many people’s addiction journey. According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, around 40 to 60 percent of the people in addiction treatment programs slip up at least once on the path to recovery. Regardless of the circumstance, relapse can happen to anyone. It does not mean recovery is not possible or that you have failed in any way. What matters is that you understand why relapse happens and know what to watch out for. The danger of relapse is the risk of overdose, which can be deadly. This risk is why relapses require professional treatment. Relapses begin with a mental battle and end with the physical act of regression. When you understand how stress is a major trigger for relapse, you will be motivated to manage it healthily.
Watch for Triggers
One important term to understand when exploring the link between stress and addiction is triggers. Triggers are simply anything that urges you to use. According to DrugAbuse.gov, triggers may include things such as:
- Being in withdrawal from drug use.
- Experiencing stressful life events.
- Seeing people, places, or things that remind a person of drugs, such as returning to a site connected to past drug use or seeing a stranger sell drugs.
A lot of triggers are also linked to poor mental health. Emotional lows like depression, isolation, and exhaustion are relatively common triggers for relapse. Triggers do not always lead to relapse, but they are an easy gateway. Relapse is often a means to escape from the negative emotions you are faced with. This is part of the vicious cycle of addiction.
Drugs and alcohol are so powerful that if a trigger does turn into relapse, the brain then repeats that malicious behavior repeatedly. The problem is that once you have entered recovery, you have lowered your tolerance. So that decreased tolerance means your body is not equipped to handle the same amount of the substance you had when you first became addicted. This is what can lead to a life-threatening overdose. As you may notice, stress can be thought of as the umbrella that all triggers live under. Now, let’s learn why the two go hand in hand.
The Dangers of Relapse
Why is going through a relapse potentially dangerous? Unfortunately, this is due to the risk of overdose. It is not an exaggeration to say that the risk of overdose can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017.
This is how overdose occurs “If a person stops taking drugs and then takes the amount they used before quitting, they can easily overdose. Their body is no longer used to having the same amount of the drug in its system. An overdose happens when a drug causes serious, harmful symptoms or death.”
This is why it is essential to be mindful of what you or your loved one feels on this journey. With addiction, it is always best to address any issues you may face as soon as they come up. Often, relapse can make it even more challenging to open up, but it is important to communicate honestly with those around you. Plus, talking about your battle may help you identify the things that are causing you stress.
Stress and Addiction Relapse
So why are stress and relapse linked in the first place? Well, there are a few reasons. The first reason stress and addiction relapse are linked because relapse can seem like an escape from stress. Recovery is tricky. You are undoing a mental habit that is quick to create and slower to undo. Deciding to use drugs or alcohol can seem like a way to escape the stress of maintaining sobriety. Unfortunately, this is not reality. While drugs can provide a temporary feeling of relief, the long-term costs outweigh the momentary pleasure.
Another way stress and addiction relapse is linked through high emotional stress can lead to loss of control. Stress can make it challenging to stay the course. If you are under high pressure, it can lower your resistance to the triggers that lead to relapse. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also found that adverse life events have increased substance abuse risk. These events may include “parental divorce and conflict, low parental support, physical violence and abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, isolation and deviant affiliation.”
Any self-neglect or emotional pain can give way to large amounts of stress. This stress, if left unchecked, can quickly transform into a full-blown relapse. It is essential to stay mindful of how you feel along the way while on the road to recovery. By maintaining awareness of your physical, mental, and emotional state, you can get the help you need before things progress to the extreme. Now we will explore what you can do next to avoid relapse altogether.
How to Manage Stress
Often there are so many things to process on the journey to recovery. It helps to know how to manage symptoms of stress rather than letting them overcome you. Here are some tips the Centers for Disease Control recommends for managing stress:
- Take care of yourself.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Talk to others. Share your problems and how you feel and cope with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
- Take a break. If news events are causing your stress, take a break from listening or watching the news.
- Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
All in all, you want to make sure that the good outweighs the bad. When life starts to feel too heavy, it is okay to find an outlet to take the weight off your shoulders. Not only will the tips above help, but even tapping into new hobbies can be a great way to unwind. You may pick up a new instrument, start painting, or even turn your emotions into poetry. Whatever you do, not attempt to bottle it up or escape the feelings of substance abuse.
Remember that there is no going backward in your addiction journey. Healing is not a straight line; the twists and turns are a natural part of the process. The only control you have is simply the effort you put towards fighting off cravings and urges. Stay patient with yourself and know that this is a normal stage on the journey to recovery. You are not alone, and while challenging, it is possible to avoid a relapse.
How to Avoid a Relapse
Now that you know the link between stress and addiction, you can be more aware of triggers that might lead to relapse. You can avoid relapse by making the choices you know are healthiest for you, taking a break, and asking for help. Ultimately, the best method for avoiding a stress-induced relapse is to seek therapy. Behavioral therapy is a great way to prevent relapse. There are many different behavioral therapy types, but they all work on shifting thought patterns and actions by retraining your brain’s reward system. With addiction, your brain was rewarding negative behaviors. Therapy works to replace that with positive motivators.
If you do find yourself on the verge of relapse, do not feel ashamed. Attaching too many emotions to your healing journey can bring you even more stress. Relapse is a temporary slip, not a permanent loss. Plus, it is a battle you do not have to fight on your own. Stay in touch with the people you care about, and do not be afraid to ask for help. Finally, if you are concerned about relapse impacting yourself or a loved one, this is a good time to connect with a professional. Whatever the severity may be, give us a call. We will make sure you find a treatment option that helps you manage your stress and prevent the issue from progressing further. Continue to be kind to yourself, take things one day at a time, and do not be ashamed about any part of your journey.
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